ALTHOUGH THE NAME ‘NEW ENGLAND’ IS NOW FIRMLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE EAST COAST OF AMERICA, This is not the first place to be called that. In the medieval period there was another Nova Anglia, ‘New England’, and it lay far to the east of England, rather than to the west, in the area of the Crimean peninsula.
The following post examines some of the evidence relating to this colony, which was said to have been established by Anglo-Saxon exiles after the Norman conquest of 1066 and seems to have survived at least as late as the thirteenth century.
The evidence for a significant English element in the Varangian Guard of the medieval Byzantine emperors has been discussed on a number of
occasions. The Varangian Guard was the personal bodyguard of the Byzantine emperor from the time of Basil II (976–1025), founded to provide the emperor with a trustworthy force that was uninvolved in the internal politics of the Byzantine Empire and thus could be relied on in times of civil unrest.
Whilst initially made up of Russ from Kiev, with Scandinavian warriors subsequently forming an important part of the guard through the eleventh century, from the late eleventh century onwards it had a significant English component too. Indeed, the ‘English Varangians’ appear to have continued to constitute a high proportion of the Varangian Guard right through the twelfth century and up until the siege of Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade.
This is, in itself, of considerable interest, but even more intriguing is the question of why substantial numbers of English warriors entered the Varangian Guard in the later eleventh century, for the answer to this is thought to lie in a number of sources that indicate that there was, in fact, a sizeable emigration of Anglo-Saxons from England to Constantinople in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of 1066.